Lori Siebert won a ribbon for painting in a local fair when she was only seven. Since then, art has been an integral part of her life. Taking art classes to expand her curiosities and making her own versions of interesting things she saw in stores led to earning a degree in graphic design, and eventually, opening her own design firm.
Working in a mix of media that includes everything from acrylics and watercolors to torn paper and Sculpey® clay, Lori is constantly experimenting with new ways to create her signature artwork. Finding inspiration from her kids’ drawings, an old quilt, or an off-beat piece of folk-art, her insatiable curiosity, a whimsical design sense and fresh approach to color and sentiment, give each collection its own unique personality.
Lori worked as an art director for a magazine for a few years, then stepped out on her own, opening the Cincinnati-based Olika design studio with her husband, Steve, in 1987. Her DEMDACO contributions are diverse and span a breadth of collections. The common thread through most of her DEMDACO work includes the use of text to convey deeply sentimental and inspiring messages.
In recent years, becoming a grandmother has influenced some of her most-popular work, such as the Poetic Threads Bear—a soft friend for children featuring heartfelt expressions that read like sweet notes from loved ones.
We’re fortunate to feature Lori’s own thoughts on art and her life below:
You began receiving art instruction at a very young age. Did you grow up in a creative household?
I come from a creative family—painters on my Mom’s side and architects in my Dad’s family. My Mom was always very encouraging of any creative thing I wanted to try. She was the one who enrolled me in private art lessons when I was 7. I was always making stuff—candles out of melted crayons, Kleenex flowers, mud pies decorated with flowers—Mom just let me do my thing.
When you were just getting started in art, what inspired you and kept you interested enough to keep working?
I am a very curious person. I love to learn about new things all the time. I was also very shy, and art was my safe haven. I was happiest when creating. Through the years, as my artistic abilities grew, so did my confidence. Creativity has magic powers!
Why do you make and create now?
I never lost the child-like curiosity. It is in my DNA. I cannot resist a creative challenge—I still love trying new mediums, and I am a total artist groupie. I marvel at the talent in the world and find it truly awe-inspiring!
When did you begin showing and selling your work?
My first “showing” was when I was 7, right before I started taking art lessons. I won a ribbon in a local art show for a painting of a clown. I actually liked clowns—weird, right? After that, I never really “showed” my work. I first made a living with my creativity when I started a graphic design firm, three years after graduating from college in 1987.
Was there ever a time when you only focused on one medium, instead of the dynamic mixed-media work you’re so well-known for?
I get bored easily. It’s that curious nature of mine. I focus on one medium for a while, then move on to the next. I go between watercolor, acrylics and collage mostly. At first, I thought it was a liability not to have a signature “look.” But it has actually served me well. Customers get bored, too. I can change with the trends, and it suits me well to be nimble.
There’s a clear association with editorial design in the work I’ve seen. How did your time as an art director inform how you express yourself?
As a graphic designer and art director, your job is to communicate a brand by telling a story, both visually and through words. I try to think about the audience for each project and how best to speak to them. Touching emotions in some way is usually the most powerful.
Your use of the written word is compelling and comforting. I understand that much of your work is meant to serve as love letters to family and friends. How did the use of text began in your work, and how has it evolved?
As much as I love to explore new mediums, I have also always loved powerful, meaningful words. I try to write my own words in a way that is unique and unlike phrases you see repeated everywhere. The voice of each project comes from the feel of the collection and the intended audience. This comes from my background in branding. Everything in a collection should work together and communicate in harmony.
In terms of type, I see everything from elegant nods to calligraphy to the types of intimate handwriting found in a letter to a dear friend—and lots of variations. How would you describe the mix of styles?
Again, my background in graphic design brought forth my love of typography. When I was in college, we learned to hand draw letter forms. (This was pre-computer and yes, I am old.) Lettering comes naturally to me, as does my pure love of beautiful fonts. I like to hand letter my own words for most collections. It makes the work more unique, personal and handcrafted.
The typographic elements in your DEMDACO work are closely fused with the visual, resulting in a distinctly meaningful and cohesive experience. Is it ever challenging to find the right images for the words, and the other way around?
Sometimes I begin with the words and I sometimes it’s the images. Surprise, surprise…I don’t follow the same formula for every collection. If the collection is meant to be emotional, I start with the words and make them the star. And if I’m intrigued with a visual theme, I begin there and add words later. I do find that writing is the hardest part and takes a lot of concentrated time. It is not easy to find the words that are unique and relatable. I truly admire great writers!
It seems that you’re especially prolific, with a deep stylistic vocabulary and a diverse well of subjects to explore. What keeps you driven to create and keep it so fresh?
Child-like curiosity…and I’m research crazy. I just love discovery. I’m constantly exploring magazines, Pinterest, Instagram, retail stores, etc. I’m visually obsessed with beautiful things. I Love trend research and learning what’s new in the world of design, art and fashion. There is so much gorgeousness out there—it never gets boring. I find little nuggets through all of this constant research and apply it to my own work.
Your work adorns so many different formats, meaning that you interact with consumers in many different environments and living spaces. Is there a particular category that especially resonates with you (baby, everyday, kitchen, etc.)?
I seem to be attracted to categories that are most relevant to my own life, at the time. For example, I’m a Grandma now of two little boys, so designing for baby is near and dear to my heart. But I just love a great creative challenge. It’s tough to re-invent certain themes, like holiday year after year.
Your artwork feels inspired by a rich life of friends, family and faith. What else inspires your work?
I have many creative heroes. I consider myself an artist groupie. I am like a kid when I’m in the company of someone who’s work I truly admire. I believe creativity is a gift from God and I marvel at the people who use their exquisite gift.
What other interests do you enjoy outside of your life as an artist?
I love being with my family most of all and chasing my grandkids around. I love flea markets and the thrill of “the hunt.” I love travel and discovering new places. I love to read and get lost in the words. I recently got hooked on cooking shows and the show “Making It.” I’ve been a loyal Project Runway fan for years.
Are there things you do to stay engaged and challenged to try new things, or does your work follow its own natural evolution?
The “constant looking” that I do keeps me engaged and challenged. I just took a personality test and I am called a “campaigner.” That means that I am innately curious. Once I get excited about something, I tend to share it—just like a big kid. I want everyone to get excited!
Who is your favorite artist?
I could write a book on this! Some of my current favorites are Henri Matisse, Paul Klee and Edouard Vuillard. Most of my favorites use a lot of color, pattern and texture. I am also a huge fan of Iris Apfel, Todd Oldham and Gudrun Sjoden. I dream about spending an hour with Iris. She is such an inspiration.
Describe your workspace or studio?
Incredibly eclectic, colorful, lots of eye candy. I am totally a “more-is-more” girl. I pride myself on having every material or medium I need right at my fingertips. I am a collector. I love vintage and art supplies, and quirky things. These surround me while I work.
How often do you work on new artwork?
I’m creating in some way every day. I even bring art supplies on vacation.
How did you and DEMDACO become acquainted?
I have always been aware of DEMDACO. It is one of the best companies in the industry. I actually started working with DEMDACO after they absorbed Silvestri, whom I’d worked with for several years. The Glass Fusion line was originally conceived at Silvestri.
How closely do you work with DEMDACO on the reproduction process and outcome?
I work very closely with the DEMDACO team in the initial phases of determining the feel of a collection and the types of products that make sense. I completely trust the DEMDACO team in their ability to develop the collections to be their most beautiful.
How does the work you create for DEMDACO differ from work for other outlets?
For every company that I work with, I design to their brand and customer base. This way of working is a great match for my years in brand design. I find that each company has their own unique voice and my job is to create collections that fit that voice. When I design for DEMDACO, I try to incorporate an emotional connection in every product. Storytelling is also important. It’s a friendly, approachable and lovely brand that strives to delight every customer.
What is a favorite piece you’ve created for DEMDACO?
I am especially proud of the “Poetic Threads” collection because it came from my heart. Everything from the writing to the hand lettering was very personal. And, as much as I love color, I also love a neutral, classic palette that can go anywhere in the home. I am in love with the “Poetic Threads” bear for baby. I made the original from old t-shirts and my grandson in mind. He has one of the bears and loves to hug it at bedtime. My daughter (who works with us and has great taste), has many pieces of this line in her home. I love that.
What are you working on now?
I always have a full plate and I like it that way! I just finished up a few new items for the DEMDACO Noah’s Ark baby collection. There are quite a few new collections launching in January.
I’ve also been teaching painting classes to residents at the senior home where my Mom (who has Alzheimer’s) lives. After getting to know some of the other residents, I really wanted to bring them some creative time.
Any additional comments you’d like to share about your work/yourself?
I truly value my partnership with DEMDACO. It is a wonderful company and I have the utmost respect for their team. I’m very proud to work with such a fine group of talented people!